(If you wanna see some pics of my Moldova trip, follow me on Instagram at ivanxqz .)
We woke up Friday, and went to the coffee place down the street from our hostel, Coffee Molka. We ended up spending the next four hours there, talking to the gregarious and deeply knowledgeable owner, Alexander. His is not an ordinary coffee spot — he only serves Turkish coffee, and he has set it up as a coffee museum, with equipment and liqueurs and various coffee-related items. He wasn’t going to let us order something without us first smelling various jars of coffee grinds. My fave was the one with cardamom. We asked him to make us what he likes. He prepared an arabic coffee with cognac for us. (They drink early and often in Moldova.)
As we drank, Alexander told us about all the various people and cultures and influences that exist in Moldova. The European and Russian influence were evident, but he also discussed the Jewish (!) and Turkish influence. (Though not Turkey Turks. I’m neither enough of a historian nor geographer nor anthropologist to get the distinction there, but I took his word for it.)
Anyway, he then poured us shots of something tasty and herbacious from an unlabelled bottle, but he drank it himself, so I figured I’d live. This was followed by Turkish coffee with condensed milk. And by now we were hungry, so we ordered a shakshuka, which is an Israeli dish: tomato stew with egg, and in this case, with lamb sausage.
This is why you travel. I was starting to settle into a Moldovan groove. Then one of the locals, who was there with his family for a leisurely breakfast, came up and talked to us for a while. He himself was Jewish, so we got to Yid out for a minute, in a place that I least expected it.
I love leaving New York and going to Europe, because in Europe, I never have the feeling that I should be doing something more productive with my time than hanging out for hours in a cafe drinking coffee and snacking and reading and chatting. To the contrary, I feel like that’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. They have something figured out over there.
It was time to go nap for a couple of hours before our excursion to the Sparkling Party at the Cricova winery, to which our wonderful hostel host, Viorica, invited and transported us. We bought her ticket to the event, because she was so fucking nice. Also attending were two of our hostelmates that we made friends with, students on a trip for a month in their Slavic Studies program.
This was clearly the scene in Chisinau that night: live band, people milling around, drinking sparkling wine (entry yielded you coupons for four different varieties, of which my favorite was the sparkling Rosé, and I picked up a bottle at the duty free shop at the airport when I left, because, you know, I was in Moldova). We went on a brief tram tour of the tunnels where the wine is stored. Lotta pride on display.
Even though it was Friday night, we found only one place still serving food after we returned at 11 PM, a pub next door to our previous culinary home run the night before. It was passable. Our server was delightful, though, and the wine still went down easy.
I like Moldova!